While most 17 year olds are navigating road tests, budding romances, and AP classes, Amanda Ayala was also competing on NBC’s The Voice. You know, like teens are wont to do.
The Yonkers-born Ayala, now 21, has been touring the Westchester concert and venue scene since she was 13, and where other singers might rest on their laurels after getting to choose between Adam Levine, Pharrell Williams, and Blake Shelton as mentors, she’s still putting in the work and turning out fresh new tracks.
We caught up with the usually classic-rock musician for the debut of her first foray into a more traditional pop sound.
You’ve been a staple of the Westchester music and festival scene basically since you were 13. We feel like Blake Shelton’s response to learning you were from New York must be pretty common for you. How do you typically explain to people that — outside of NYC — New York gets some serious rocking done?
It is true. Any time I say “New York” people are like. “New York City?” So close but yet a little farther away. One of the things I always kind of pinpoint is we are “Just outside New York,” we’re not upstate. Westchester has such a rocking community as well, so I always have to push that so people kind of understand.
You actually grew up in Yonkers and currently live just a stone’s throw away in the lower-property-tax land of Mahopac. Hit us with your other local bona fides. How did growing up in Westchester shape your career so far?
So I was born in Yonkers, mom and dad they were both from Yonkers. We’re Westchester natives and my personal life, my social life … Westchester has been a huge part of the community of everyday life.
There has been a ton of shows I’ve done in Westchester throughout my entire career that I am so incredibly thankful for; I’ve played at numerous bars — it’s so crazy to see how it’s come around full circle. It feels amazing.
Totally putting you on blast: What were some of your favorite places to eat or hang out when you lived in Yonkers?
You literally turned heads (and chairs) on The Voice when you were just 17. It seems almost silly to ask this considering how young you were and still are, but how has your career shifted since performing on national television?
It’s crazy. Before that I was in cover bands and I only played locally. I wasn’t really doing anything original, so the minute I got on The Voice that took my career to a completely different level. I got out of the scene of just being looked at as being in a cover band; I was taken more seriously. It was the launch pad to where my career is going today and obviously the national exposure has opened me to a whole wide fan base of people I never even knew I had.
They started following me on social media and that experience in general was so crazy as 17 year old. It’s really catapulted me to so many different opportunities; I’ve opened for world renowned artist like Taylor Dayne and Blue Öyster Cult, so its really been the driving force to my success. Without it I don’t know what I would be doing as a solo artist.
As I look back at 2015, it has been a year filled with many amazing experiences and many new great friends that I am so thankful to have met! I want to take a minute and thank all my friends, family and fans for all of their support and dedication throughout the year! I want to personally wish each and every one a Happy and Healthy New Year and May all your Dreams come True in 2016! Stayed tuned for new music and new performances! Let’s Rock 2016!
What has it been like to play with such big names?
Preforming alongside names that I’ve looked up to growing up is a surreal feeling. I never thought it a million years, obviously. That’s the dream and that’s the goal we’ve had in mind: to get bigger and be better. When it actually becomes reality it is such a surreal feeling, and at the end of the day when I get to meet them, that they are just people like everyone else, down to earth and just as passionate about the craft as I am, it’s a refreshing feeling.
Much of your early work gets billed as alternative and classic. Influences from CCR and Tina Turner to Paramour and Radiohead are quite noticeable, though you always put your own spin on things. Who were some of your biggest influences, both musically and otherwise?
In general, my parents have always played a wide range of music so that’s where I get my influences like Pat Benatar, Joan Jett, Tina Turner, kind of where the classic rock female influences from.
Heavy Pat Benatar vibes. Especially on your track “Her.”
Pat Benatar has always been someone I’ve idolized in that classic rock scene, but you know as artist more currently feel like, as you said, Paramour is like my all time favorite band; I absolutely love Hailey Williams as a lead singer. Kelly Clarkson … I’m a big fan of P!nk … a lot of the big female power vocals in a pop-based industry is what I have been following as of lately.
Your new single “Lost You” just debuted and it’s being heralded as your first real genre crossover into straight-up pop. What led you to that decision, musically? What did the sounds of that genre offer the song?
One of the biggest reasons I made the transition into pop was I allowed myself to be completely open to the genre. Normally when I go into a writing session my mentality is ‘write a structured rock tune,’ that’s just a simple format. The more I open myself up creatively, the more I feel in love with the genre of pop and my lyrics, my melodies and ideas all seem to merge better. I felt more comfortable and like I vibe with it a lot more than I did with a rock song with heavy guitar and drums. I think that pop could better express the songs and lyrics I am writing more.
Did you work with any producers or did you sit with the bare bones and let it work on its own?
The song was written just on an acoustic guitar but when I brought it into the studio I didn’t want it to be acetic; I want to really blow this out to the biggest possibilities and I sat down with the producer, Mike Rogers. He did “Groove Is in the Heart” and he really pulled a genre out of me that I didn’t know I had. I was used to one type of musical style that I used to write. Mike was defiantly a big influence in saying, “Hey, if you want to be a pop artist you have to go full-force.”
What else are you currently working on at the moment? Any album or upcoming shows on the horizon?
Currently, I’m going back in the studio with Mike. I have been writing a ton of new pop material that I’m super excited to get out into the world, so that is going to be on the next horizon. We have the music video [for “Lost You”] dropping, so that is going to be launched through Vevo. I am super excited to actually visualize the emotion behind the song.
Amanda Ayala’s new single is available for streaming and download through digital retailers now. You can find more on her and her work at AmandaAyala.com.